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William Giles

1872 - 1938

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi by William Giles

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi   c.1926

  Original woodcut and relief print from zinc plates, printed in colours.
Signed and numbered in pencil.
S 448 x 557 mm; I 333 x 448 mm
Superb impression of this magnificent colour print with totally fresh, vibrant colours.

The most famous colour relief print by William Giles
, displaying his unique method of combining multiple woodblocks and zinc plates printed in relief, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (or Thus Passes the Glory of the World) has long been regarded as one of the greatest colour prints of its period. This outstanding signed impression is from the only edition of 100 numbered proofs; however, it is rare to find this remarkable work in such splendid original condition.

President of the Society of Graver Printers in Colour, William Giles was one of the most important innovators in original colour printmaking in Britain during the first three decades of the twentieth-century. Having begun with the traditional colour woodcut method, he experimented widely, first with aquatint and then with relief printing from zinc plates in an attempt to produce pure, even areas of colour. He developed a novel range of inks ranging from watercolour mixed with rice paste, to powered colour dissolved in volatile oil, in order to achieve an ever greater range and depth of colour throughout his prints.

His first experiments using zinc plates for relief printing date from 1902 and by 1920 he had developed a novel technique using multiple zinc plates coated with shellac. Each zinc plate was inked to print a single colour from the raised areas of its etched surface and no ‘key block’ was used (the innovation of omitting the traditional ‘key block’ must now be regarded as one of Giles’s great contributions to the art of colour printing – a contribution which is normally accredited to Claude Flight). This impressive colour print is widely regarded as Giles’ most successful experiment, made using a combination of woodcut blocks and multiple zinc plates. The result is a strikingly effective image with a myriad of fresh, even colours of a nature unique to the works of this pioneering artist.

William Giles was elected president of the Society of Graver Printers in Colour in the mid-1920’s, succeeding Theodore Roussel who had been made its first president upon the foundation of the Society in 1909.

On thick cream simile Japan paper, with full margins (Giles found it necessary to use thick or double layer Japan paper to withstand the pressure of multiple printing with woodblocks and metal plates). Exceptionally good original condition.